Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Review: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris--until she meets √Čtienne St. Clair. Smart, charming, beautiful, √Čtienne has it all...including a serious girlfriend. 
But in the City of Light, wishes have a way of coming true. Will a year of romantic near-misses end with their long-awaited French kiss?

I needed this book. In fact I probably needed this book a few months ago when I first moved to France, but hey, better late than never. This book just called out to me in so many ways, it made me laugh and cry and repeatedly put Anna in situations that I’ve been in and I felt for her so much. I moved to France at the end of October last year. I had mildly more control over it than Anna does in the book, but I spoke about the same amount of French as she does, and the entire thing terrified me.
It is so reassuring when you’re reading a book and you see situations and scenarios that are close to you, and you’re able to read them and go ‘hey, this is ok, I am not being ridiculous for feeling like this!’ And when Anna spent her first few weeks hiding in the school and not exploring Paris, and eating bread and fruit because she was too afraid to try and order food in French, I wanted to hug her and tell her I know exactly how you feel and I promise you it gets better.

This book basically felt like a mutual hug. I wanted to hug Anna, and it felt like in return the book was hugging me and telling me that it would all be ok and I would love this strange, crazy city and understand this language and that the experiences would be something I would look back on and cherish. So my review is pretty much guaranteed to be a love letter to this book that felt like a life raft at just the point that I needed it.

I loved Anna. Occasionally I wanted to shake her, but that was more that as I’m a bit older than her character I remember all too well the feelings and mistakes and I could see them coming and wanted to help her avoid them, so it was an odd mix of teenage me going ‘yup, totally understand and am with you on this one’ and adult me going ‘you idiot, you just need to communicate!’
She was funny and snarky and yes, a bit of a moron over boys, but at that age most girls are. I felt for her, I understood her frustrations and anger and heartache, and I wanted to hug her. She was such a fantastic character, brilliantly brought to life and full of such vivacious energy. She all but fell off the page and into my head, bringing all of the other characters with her. Particularly St. Clair.

Oh St. Clair, you and I totally need to talk. The stringing along of the girl and the girlfriend? Bad move, very bad move, but again given all the circumstances and happenings, I get it. So I was a bit torn by him. Yes he was dreamy and lovely and funny and I wanted to smush him and tell him things would work out in the end. But at the same time I wanted to throw things at him for being an inconsiderate arse.

There were points where I would have really liked a little more of some of the supporting characters, but on the whole I thought they were fantastic. They created such a brilliant group of friends to guide Anna in her first French foray, and I can’t wait to see more of Josh and Isla in the final book of the series.

It wasn’t just the characters that made me fall in love though, it was the setting as well. I’ve been lamenting the lack of English language books set in France, so it was fantastic to finally have a well written book that explore the city. Having it set in Paris, with the language and the exploration really lifted the book from an ordinary story into something more. There was an added element of magic and romance and I loved exploring the city with Anna.

I cannot recommend this book enough. It’s got brilliant characters, a wonderful setting and just such a well written and enjoyable story. It’s incredibly easy to lose yourself in and a very quick read – almost too quick, I want to go back and re-read it, I miss the characters already!
And for anyone who is feeling like a fish out of water, and experiencing being in an unfamiliar place, it is even more of a must read. I think it may even be about to turn into one of my chicken soup reads.

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